NGOs Urge Ugandan Parliament To Reject Bill Criminalizing Homosexuality

Nongovernmental organizations on Wednesday called on the Ugandan parliament to reject a “proposed law that seeks to criminalize homosexuality ahead of an expected vote on a revised version of the legislation,” Bloomberg reports (Ojambo, 5/10).

“In its original form, the bill – first proposed in October 2009 – called for the death penalty for ‘serial offenders,’ for active homosexuals living with HIV, and for same-sex rape,” according to the Independent. However, Martin Ssempa, a pastor who is backing the bill, said this week the death penalty is being dropped from the bill and replaced by imprisonment, the newspaper adds (Akam, 5/11). Homosexuality already is illegal in Uganda, Agence France-Presse/News24 reports (5/11).

In a statement, UNAIDS expressed concern over the bill, saying it “considers the criminalization of people based on their sexual orientation a denial of human rights and a threat to public health in the context of the HIV response.” The organization called on the 79 countries worldwide that criminalize same-sex behavior “to review and repeal laws that discriminate against sexual minorities” (5/10).

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission on Friday in a statement called the bill “heinous” and said, “Governments, world religious and political leaders, and HIV-prevention experts have all appealed to Ugandan parliamentarians to put their distaste and fear of LGBT people aside and use their better judgment for the good of the country,” according to the Independent (5/11).

AFP/News24 reports that Uganda’s parliament is scheduled to debate and vote on the bill on Wednesday following hearings by a parliamentary legal committee (5/11). However, BBC News states that a parliamentary spokesperson told the news agency “it was unlikely MPs would get to vote on the bill before the current parliamentary session ends this week.” According to the BBC, a new parliament is set to be sworn in next week (5/10).